Category Archives: Collectables

The Quality of Coins…

We had an unusual start to the day.

On Saturday we have a lie in.  It’s the one day of the week when we aren’t pressed for time so we sleep in until 8.00. It’s only an hour but it breaks up the week, and prepares us for Sunday. I was in that stage of waking where you know the alarm is about to go off, but you don’t actually want to open your eyes and confirm it. It’s a comfortable place to be and I quite enjoy it.

Then Julia’s mobile went off.

It was work.

According to my alarm it was 7.58.

The Council had organised a special event for employees in one of their departments (and family members) after they won a national award. They had realised, somewhere between opening at 6.00 and ringing us, that they would need extra staff, hence the phone call.

Julia has a particular tone of voice she uses when she wants to express disapproval without actually saying she disapproves. I have heard it more than once. The crackling voice on the other end of the phone become gradually more apologetic.

Fortunately the rest of the day was better. We had customers in for most of the day and managed to get a few things on eBay too. It’s strange to think that six hours of work can be condensed into a couple of lines.

I’ll load some pictures now as they are a slightly more interesting way of  showing how industrious I’ve been.

For starters, I’ll start with a marketing master class. If you are thinking of marketing a coin by using a well-known entertainer, make it a rule to check if he’s likely to be at liberty to help with the promotional work. Rolf Harris was not a good choice to promote the Australian silver Kangaroo coin. Eddie refuses to put them on eBay but I have no problem with them. The coin didn’t actually commit any crime and besides that, it gives me a chance to say “Can you see what it is yet?” (American readers may need to refer to the link to see what I’m talking about, just replace the name with Bill Cosby).

The next selection are from the well known nation of Tristan da Cunha. It’s so proud of itself it even uses the abbreviation TDC instead of its name. I doubt if any of the coins ever see the place, though according to this link they do provide a source of revenue for the island. They seem to be jumping on the Great War bandwagon, and though the designs aren’t bad on the reverses, the badly done bust of the Queen is almost criminal.

Contrast that with the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy used on our current coins, and the coins of many other nations, and the TDC one looks even worse. You can see the IRB effigy on this poppy-shaped coin from Jersey. You can also get them with red colouration applied. I will say no more.

It’s not what I thought I’d be dealing with when I went to work in a coin shop.

Fun with Stamps

We get offered a lot of stamps in the shop, and turn most of them down. The stamp market is such that there is no real call for First Day Covers, schoolboy collections or, indeed, most stamps we are offered. We even turned away a Penny Black the other day. As you can see from the link – they printed 68,808,000 of them and many used examples were saved. They were hand cut from unperforated sheets and only ones that have been well cut, with four even margins, are really worth anything. They frequently sell for under £30 on eBay, with several under £20. It’s not much for a cultural icon. (On the other hand, Stanley Gibbons have a nice one for sale at £250,000. Well, I assume it’s nice for quarter of a million.)

The ones we buy are the Presentation Packs. We then break them up and use them on parcels. As long as they are priced in decimal currency you can still use them. You can even use the ones priced in 1/2p denominations even though we stopped using the 1/2p coin in 1984.

It can take a while sorting all these stamps and working out the postage, as you can see from the accompanying pictures. It’s good for your mental arithmetic, if nothing else.

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Bluebells and Winnie the Pooh

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A very orange stamp

The first perforated stamps were Penny Reds. They were originally issued to replace Penny Blacks in 1841, and continued until 1879. In the beginning they needed cutting like the Penny Black but in 1854 they were issued perforated for ease of use.

1854 – we couldn’t run an efficient army nursing service but we could perforate stamps…

Something New

It’s always good to see something new, and yesterday I saw two new things.

One is a small medal for the marriage of Prince George, Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. Royalty have such long names…

Prince George was the first member of the royal family to work in the Civil Service, the first to be trained in Intelligence (make up your own jokes there) and the first to be accused of…

…well, you’ll have to follow the link.

He was also the first royal to die on active service in 450 years. The previous one, I presume, was Richard III.

Royal Wedding Medal 1934

Royal Wedding Medal 1934

In real life it is only 19mm across. It’s ironic that it’s stamped “Foreign” as our royal family are German and Marina was Greek. Or Danish.

The other is a race course pass for Sandown Park in Surrey.  Members used to wear them to show they had paid their membership fees. You don’t see many this old – 1905. You also don’t see many that are made to mimic beaten copper with an Arts and Crafts style of suspension loop. It reminds me of Newlyn copper work.

Sandown Park Racecourse Members' Pass 1905

Sandown Park Racecourse Members’ Pass 1905

 

Timeslip…

Though I’ve written about Bempton Cliffs today the reality of my day was slightly less open air. With a couple of short bursts of visiting the front room of the shop I sat in a windowless room typing all day.

The eBay auctions for the silver stamp ingots ended today with an average price of just over £6, which was disappointing. We should perhaps have put them out a few at a time. In terms of taking the rough with the smooth we’ve been taking quite a lot of rough recently.

I was given the job of sorting out how to make a listing with a drop-down menu. It seems simple enough, and it sort of is. Unfortunately I didn’t save my work often enough and ended up wiping out several hours of painstaking labour.

This, as I loudly remarked, was quite irksome.

To make things worse I actually did it twice, though I wiped off different work each time. The second time was while I was shutting down after paying for some items I had bought in auction. This was very embarrassing as I should not, of course, have been doing private things in work time.

When I eventually finish listing the first series (85 Cards) guess what my next job is. This has the potential for making the shillings look like top grade intellectual exertion.

It’s 21 hours later…

I didn’t finish the post, though I did go to work and sort of cracked the problems of posting eBay listings with drop-down menus.

Not only that but I did it via a couple of near disasters, one of which saw me with several thousand entries instead of 85, mostly unpriced and with all the stock counts re-set to one.

It was accompanied by much wailing, rending of clothes and a good helping of dust and ashes. Say what you like about the Old Testament, but they knew how to do lamentation with style.

Anyway, thanks to my newly developed enthusiasm for saving my work, disaster was averted. As a reward I…

…was allowed to carry on with Numbers 86-170.

At least they are all proper footballers, with names like Billy and Mick and Ron. Quite a few had evidence of facial trauma, of the sort associated with “old-fashioned centre-forwards”.  In some ways it’s quite refreshing to see footballers from the more muscular days of the game, and to see cards rather than stickers.

In other ways, it isn’t. Every time I close my eyes all I can see is football cards.

More from Bempton Cliffs to follow…

History and Heroes

I like medallions.

I particularly like well-made Victorian medallions in their original boxes, but that’s just another case of me having champagne tastes and a beer income.

So here are some medallions we put on eBay this week.

First up is Canterbury Cathedral, a well-struck high relief medallion with lots of detail. It’s not the most inspiring subject but it’s done well and there’s an aura of quality hanging round it. This aura obviously communicates itself electronically as it has already sold.

 

 

The next one commemorates 21 years of the Volunteer Movement. Founded in 1860 as a reaction to political tensions with the French, the Volunteers built on the tradition of local units raised in Napoleonic times. After nearly 50 years they became the Territorial Force in 1908 and they are now known as the Army Reserve. Each incarnation has seen them become more serious and slightly more removed from the local community. I suppose that’s progress.

It is an extremely well-struck medal and this particular example has traces of original lustre and the box of issue. The box has seen some wear over the years but retains its original velvet and silk lining.

On the reverse, St Michael guards a woman an children, supported by three warriors representing England, Scotland and  Ireland. You can tell this from the rose, thistle and shamrock on their shields.

The final medal was produced by the Royal Mint in 1990. It’s good for a modern medal, but still suffers by comparison to proper, old medallions. It commemorates 200 years of lifeboat design. I like it because it has an interesting historical subject and it’s treated with enthusiasm (even if it does have a dull, low-relief reverse).

-Of all the heroes we’ve ever had, you’ll have to search hard to beat a lifeboat man, as this link shows.

Blood Testing Blues

I went down to the hospital early and was rewarded with a choice of parking spaces. This was good.

Little did I realise it was to be the high point of my morning.

My first clue to trouble ahead was the crowd by the door of the Phlebotomy Room. The second was my ticket number – I was ticket A134. The first ticket called after I sat down was A119. (Yes, it’s run like a supermarket deli counter).

Fortunately I had a book with me. It’s not as interesting as it may seem, as my forthcoming review may mention. For now I’m keeping an open mind. I had nearly an hour of open-mindedness to devote to it this morning.

Little did I realise etc….

It took three attempts in the right arm, and one in the left (including one with an old-fashioned syringe used with a stab it and hope approach). If we’d been fighting a duel honour would have been well and truly satisfied by all that blood and wounding. At that point she called in help.

It seems that I may have some scar tissue in the arm from the number of blood tests I’ve had, and this is causing some problems in drilling for fresh blood. If I live to be ninety I expect I’ll have arms like sacks of walnuts and they’ll be using power tools.

The reinforcement didn’t mess about. One swift jab with a massive needle and the blood was drawn.

It’s a shame she couldn’t have done it sooner as it would have saved me from having to pay £4 for car parking.

It normally only costs me £2  but it went over the hour so it cost £2 extra. Next time I’ll take a flask and sandwiches and have a picnic until the time is up. I like to get value for money.

I took these pictures of flowers at the Mencap garden on Monday when I took Julia down to water the polytunnel. They have a close-down week this week, when they just shut up shop and all have a holiday. Of course, this was all decided by people who don’t have a garden to run.

In the shop we didn’t have as many parcels to pack as yesterday, just a mere five today. I sorted five lots of American coins for eBay, added to my numismatic knowledge via Google (after all, you need to know something to write about them properly), served a couple of customers looking for postcards, answered the phone, polished the counters and cleaned 24 silver ingots in the shape of postage stamps. They will be going on eBay by the end of the week.

Finally, someone brought a medal in to part exchange.

 

It’s the South African campaign medal with the bar for 1879 – the year of the Zulu War. It was originally instituted in 1854, and the date 1853 was placed was at the bottom of the reverse (or “the exergue” if you want to be technical). It  was awarded in a back-dated fashion for campaigns dating back to 1835. In 1879 they decided to re-issue it with Zulu shields in the exergue and a set of date bars relating to wars in 1877-79. The date 1879 is for troops who served in the Zulu War of that year – the one that saw British troops with rifles and artillery severely mauled by Zulus with spears.

It wasn’t all plain sailing in the days of the Empire.

Although it’s a great bit of history, it has been spoiled as a collectable because it’s been re-named. This means that the original name has been removed from the edge and another name has been added. Unfortunately, though this was clearly done in Victorian times, it ruins it for collectors.

Soldiers, you see, would often sell or pawn their medals when short of cash and, when posted away at short notice, be unable to get the medals back. Rather than admit to the military offence of selling or pawning their medals they would merely buy one from the pawn shop and have their name put on them. But that is a subject for a different day.

Struggling for Words

Oh dear, what should I talk about?

Julia has put an end to talk of funerals for the moment. She thinks it’s morbid.

She’s also put an end to posts about how she bosses me around. That is tricky, because if I do what she tells me I sort of prove my point. And if I don’t do what she says I might have to develop early-rising habits and cook my own breakfast.

I also don’t want to talk about work too much, as I admit that many people will find it less than fascinating. Not everyone is blessed with my capacity for loving ancient rubbish.

Nor will everyone be fascinated to hear how we reset the credit card machine after it stopped working.

Nor will the news that we’ve increased the stock of our on-line shop by 10% this week be greeted with much more than the thought of raising an eyebrow.

We have been shown some interesting things this week – including a George Medal that required a new ribbon, a medieval lead token someone found whilst digging the garden and a box of World War Two medals which included King Haakon VII’s Freedom Medal. I would have liked to have known the story behind the last one, but they didn’t even know which member of the family they had belonged to. Needless to say, as soon as I showed interest they decided to keep them.

The big news is that the shillings are all done. On Monday they will be delivered and, hopefully, out of my life forever. The same goes for the 1,000 crowns we’re also sending. However, don’t worry, we’ve already bought more. It seems like everyone who comes in has cupro-nickel crowns.

Shillings of Elizabeth II - English and Scottish varieties

Shillings of Elizabeth II – English and Scottish varieties

I have some. I bought them in 1968 after reading about how they would be a good investment. My Mum got them from the bank for me – four at face value of five shillings each. (This was before we went decimal and they became worth 25 pence). They are still worth that. Allowing for inflation this is a bit of a disaster.

Things could be, as I often say, worse. There’s a website you can use for selling things and they offer 19 pence each. I won’t send you a link as I don’t want to encourage them.

There would be more photographs but for the last few days I’ve been having trouble with my media contents – scroll down a few weeks looking for a suitable library shot and the whole thing freezes, making me shut down to get going again.

Looks like I may have to email WordPress.

It rained this afternoon. I’m hoping this isn’t a sign that summer is over.

We also had to evict another wasp queen. That is two in the last three days. Opinion in the shop is divided between gently showing them the door and killing them. At the moment I’m with Eddie on gently showing them the door. However, I’m wondering if I might change my mind shortly as the suspicion of a wasp invasion builds up.

As lives go, this is not cutting edge…